The Fine Colour Of Rust
by P.A. O'Reilly
Published by Blue Door/HarperCollins
I was fortunate enough to recieve an autographed copy of this book as a gift from my Antipodean literary advisor. Despite having both a free book and a personal message from the author, I shan't let either cloud my opinion here. 

But if you're looking for a good read about a group of not-quite-ordinary people struggling to carve a life out of a small town half way between Melbourne and and a great big open space, then you'd do well to pick up a copy. 

On the other hand, if you're looking for something fast-paced and where the action explodes off the page, this isn't for you: this story moves at it own pace, it unfolds gradually and gives you the time to savour the grains and dust that make up so much of our lives.

The story revolves around Loretta Boskovic, a single mother among a sea of single mothers who daydreams of capturing the heart of a reliable and hopefully (though always imaginary) well-heeled man, whilst inspiring the rest of the town of Gunapan's population to do battle with big and small government. Her much dreamed of man also has to come with a pretty decent car because her own, as we explore in great detail, is always en-route to the scrapyard.

The town is, by and large, forgotten by everyone bar the locals and is thus ripe to be shafted by unscrupulous property dealers. Not only do they plan to nick the local water supply, they see the town as a sort of feeder factory of workers for the resort they plan to build (with help from some obliging members of the local council). That's battle No 2.

Battle No 1 involves dragging the Minister for Education, Elderly Care and Gaming into Gunapan to talk to the residents about their never-going-to-give-up battle to save their children's school from closure.

And if the minister's title brings a smile to your lips then you'll be happy to know that the book is laced with this kind of humour. It's not quite black, but for every situation Loretta and the town finds themselves in, there's nearly always a humorous lining. For me, one of the great lol moments was the hospital scene between Loretta, her sick mother and Loretta's children, which is both bizarre and sharply dark.

The characters, their lives and experiences are all well written and believeable - you warm to them all (except the scattering of baddies). If, like me, you read foreign literature to gain something of an insight into how other nations think and act, then you won't be disappointed, though it'd probably be wise not to imagine that the Gunapanians represent all of Oz. On the other hand, the issues being dealt with here are universal, the sort of things we read about wherever we are.

One of the things I like about reading books in non-British English is to discover how the langauge used differs to mine. So would I say that it is typically Ozzie in voice and circumstance?

I can't say I know enough about Australia and her people to comment, but it does reflect a certain gritiness, a willingness to get on with life without much moaning about what it's throwing at them. The language is undoubtedly Aussie, but given that Oz English is by and large British English, you only notice the difference in the details. In a way I'm a little disappointed by this: I know that if I read an American novel the English will be very different to British English. But this isn't a criticism of the book, it just shows how close Oz and British English still are.

My only real criticism is there is a long-ish build up to a fairly important event which we jump over, to land in the aftermath of an explanation of how it had unravelled and been dealt with. I felt slightly cheated because I wanted one or two of the baddies to get their come uppance, and I wanted the satisfaction of witnessing it.

On the other hand, O'Reilly twists and binds the ups and downs with so much humour and humanity that it's pretty easy to forgive her for not satisfying my expectations in that department.

It isn't a difficult book to read: the pages turn almost by themselves as O'Reilly's easy style of writing and the laughs keep you wanting more. Overall, I really enjoyed this snapshot of middle-of-nowhere Australia, a place populated with every-day people struggling to bring happines into some pretty tough lives, and not giving up on this despite the commercial and political skulduggery. Personally, I'd like to find out what happens next, but failing this, will settle for reading the rest of O'Reilly's back-catalogue.

You can order the book from Amazon, and while you're waiting, you can read the excellent interview with the author on her website.

Welcome to IAAY number nine!

This week it's all about British writer and editor, Marian Newell, whose first novel was inspired by childhood memories of the Cinque Ports and their lurid smuggling folklore.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It’s All About Marian Newell
It’s All About Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

 It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’

This must be one of the greatest closing lines in fiction, quite an achievement when you remember that the book has a cracking opening line too. The words moved me to tears when I first read them in my late teens, and the nobility of the protagonist’s sacrifice retains its power for me still.

This book shaped my taste in fiction, making me seek grand themes and psychological depth.  Most of all, it piqued my interest in motivation. I want to get to know characters as if they were real people, and I want to understand what they want and why they act as they do.

One of the grand themes in this story is redemption. It asks whether a worthless life can be redeemed by a single noble act. It also invites us to consider whether the sacrifice has less value because the life is worthless, a burden to the man who sacrifices it.

The quoted words are finely crafted, using the literary device anaphora — the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. This occurs throughout the book and underlines the recurring theme of doubles. There are the two cities of the title and the two characters so alike that they can be repeatedly mistaken for one another.

For me, though, the power of the quote is in the satisfying resolution it gives to the story. An ending that might have been unbearably sad is lifted by the fact that death holds no fear. There is utter confidence that the path taken will leave everyone, including the man who forfeits his life, better off.

A sense of closure remains important to me. I often find stories that end ambiguously to be unsatisfying. While recognising that there is value in personal interpretation, I usually prefer to know what the storyteller means rather than to discover my own meaning in their work.

It’s All About Me

A Devil’s Dozen by Marian Newell (2012)

This, my debut novel, is a fictionalised account of real events. It describes the rise and fall of a smuggling gang that operated on the Kent coast in the 1820s. The tale demanded a strong focus on historical detail and actual incidents but my own interest was more in the nature of the fourteen viewpoint characters. I wanted to use fiction as a tool to look beyond the recorded facts.

It struck me that any group of that size includes a variety of people, doing similar things but for a range of reasons. Having read as much as I could about the time and place, I considered how the men might have differed in their backgrounds and circumstances. The motivations of the characters that I created range from need to greed, from the wildly irrational to the coldly calculated.

My story is unlike A Tale of Two Cities in that it has a factual core and doesn’t impose specific themes on what took place. However, and with no comparison to Dickens’ mastery of the form, I do see ways in which my work was influenced by his. Much of the impact of the sacrifice in A Tale of Two Cities comes from its unexpected source. Our expectations are often confounded: people we consider reliable may let us down, while people we dismiss may surprise us. I tried to cast against type when I allocated actions derived from contemporary local rumours to the individuals I had characterised.

Returning to endings, the optimism of mine certainly owes a debt to his. I was mindful of the importance of opening and closing chapters and considered my personal favourites. It was Rebecca (‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’) and A Tale of Two Cities that sprang to mind.

My manuscript originally ended on a reflective and slightly sad note. During the editing process, I revised it to conclude in a more forward-looking way:

‘You sees that, boys? Paul? Tommy? You sees it?’

Tommy looked at Pierce, who closed his mouth and swallowed. They all stared at each other for a moment or two, then Pierce cleared his throat and shouted back.

‘We see it. By Christ, Quacks, we all see it.’

I had lacked the confidence to stop at this point but feedback made me realise that cutting what came afterwards would make the ending stronger. Readers would be able to see what the future held, just as my characters were seeing it.

I wonder if Dickens knew all along that his story would end with the uplifting sentiment we read in the final version. I suspect he probably did.

Welcome to IAAY number seven!

This week it's all about Australian writer, calligrapher, artist and, as if that wasn't enough, Olympic cycle trainer, Graham McArthur. Oh yes, did I mention he plays the guitar a bit too and released three music CDs ?

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Graham McArthur
It’s all about My Father
I grew up surrounded by letters. Lettering was everywhere inside and outside the house. My father was a sign writer and calligrapher although he never used the label. He worked from home and there were large signs in the driveway and in the ‘shed’ where he spent most of his time. Small stuff was made inside wherever there was room. Works on paper, wood panels, scrolls, plaques, heraldry, photo mounts etc were stacked against the walls and on chairs and any available flat surface including the floor. The dinning room became his inside studio for 360 days of year (it only functioned as a dining room at Christmas). As a small pre-school boy this is the room I spent most of each day in.

I can not remember a time I did not draw. For obvious reasons most of my drawings contained letters. My father thought that if I was drawing letters, I should draw them correctly. From the age of five and before I learnt to read, he had me drawing Roman Capitals in pencil on a daily basis (up to about age 11-12). My love of letters has never lessened.

It was many, many years later that learnt to appreciate just how much he taught me and how skilled he really was. I still have a few leaves of gold leaf from those early years of learning to brush letter and gild on glass, wood and leather all before I learnt to read.

Unfortunately nothing has survived except 2-3 leaves of gold. I can only imagine how bad those early letters were, but the memories are what is important and much more precious than any physical reminders.

It’s All About Me
I left art school early to pursue a career in fine art. After an inaugural sell out exhibition I spent a few years painting portraits and landscapes. This drove me insane and so I turned to commercial illustration eventually working as an illustrator and typographer for a printing and publishing house during the early 1970’s. By the mid 70’s I was freelancing and have been freelancing ever since. 

Three years ago I accepted a full time job offer and have pulled back from illustration somewhat. Today my interests and work is varied and broad. I still love letters and lettering, calligraphy and type design. These precious things will never leave me. I still love to draw and paint and have learnt late in life to appreciate abstract art and all its singular challenges. I now understand just how important my often tedious and repetitious classical training in drawing, painting and lettering is in creating a sound foundation from which one can have the freedom of choice in pursuit of experimentation and discovering the new. Without that training you have little to nothing from which to stand on or leave behind.

I made my first guitar in circa 1990 because I could afford to buy a good instrument. Its is a terrible instrument but it taught me much. Ten years after that my guitar workshop became my daughter’s bedroom and guitar making was transferred to the shed where it remains with an ever growing hunger to re-establish warmer and more pleasant surroundings befitting its stature and importance to my life. Of course I play terribly and one should always wear ear muffs when I am near an instrument.

Music is of course extremely important to me and is a big part in my daily life. A recently developed passion for electronic soundscapes and experimental music genres has almost become an obsession, well OK, I will admit it is an obsession. 

Sorry can’t help it. My third CD was thrown at the world a few days ago.

When not following the above distractions I find a strange comfort it reading and writing. My fantasy novel ‘Mironmure’, which began life some 15-20 years ago is as stagnant as always, but not forgotten. I am still working on it - honest. The other novel is going much better and I am hopeful it will be finish with in the next 12 months. This time I have taken to crime with the aid of a rather socially inept and reclusive artist who has become very pissed off and annoyed at a certain individual who steals artworks and kills people. Can’t say any more on that. 

I must not leave without mentioning the bike, its always about the bike. Cycling is in my blood and its a sport I love dearly. Three athletes I introduced to the sport and coached in their formative years are riding for Australia in the Olympics. I am very excited about that.

You can find out more about Graham at the following:
 * All art work (C) Graham McArthur

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You
3. Writer's Blues

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply.

It Is All About You!
We had a cracking IAAY from Russ King who has, among other things, managed to turn his experience of working from home into a novel. Given that I've been working from home for 6.5 years now, maybe I should take a leaf or two out of his book.

As A Writer...
I'm fascinated by the process of writing, both mine and other people's, and just how much of that is a learning experience. I recently started re-drafting my second book, The Girl Who Dreamt of Water, and was shocked to find how badly written the first few pages were. Actually forget that: how about the first few lines? 

I was not only shocked by how poor some of the sentence structure was, but also how I'd just not written what I intended to write. OK, I nearly wrote what was intended, but it was a long way from what I can now see I should have written.

The question is, how could this have happened and how can I avoid it in the future? I'd be fascinated to know how other writers deal with this sort of thing and how you feel when you think you've finished something, only to go back later and find it needs a lot of re-writing.

For example, how do you deal with finding out that you've deluded yourself into believing what you wrote was good? It stopped me in my tracks and for a while I was at a loss to understand what had happened. I even wondered if someone had been tampering with my MS (about 99% impossible), so it must be my fault (of course it is!). I've managed to get over that now and have started a massive re-edit. It's annoying and frustrating, but in terms of meaning, it's a cold hard lesson that I won't forget.

And as I'm currently an indie-author, it's a lesson I, and we, all have to accept. There's far too many stories in the press about poor quality work from indie-authors.This isn't because we're lazy or inherently rubbish, but because we don't have the resources traditional publishers have. By that I mean the people who scour our MS's to weed out all the bad grammar and plotting errors etc: an independent pair of eyes can see farther than our own.

Instead we have to makes ourselves work ten times harder on the writing and editing whilst accepting that what we do is worth less than the price a cup of coffee. And if that isn't the best motivational poster you've ever seen for being a writer, I don't know what is.

Welcome to IAAY number four!

This week it's all about British writer Russ King who's been known to double up as a pirate and/or Batman in North Somerset. He also works from home.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Russ King
It’s all about Roald Dahl

Just to be different I’m going to ignore the obvious effect Roald Dahl’s children’s fiction had on my imagination and love of books as a child. Today I want to tell you about the legendary diaries of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, ‘the greatest bounder, bon vivant and fornicator of all time’.

Dahl’s fiction for children featured fantastically nasty villains that you couldn’t wait to reach a spectacularly sticky end, but in Uncle Oswald we have a flamboyant, reckless and bad character that you somehow can’t help liking.

This dastardly seducer first appears in Dahl’s short stories but he gets a whole book in My Uncle Oswald and it is the most ridiculous, rude and funny romp you will ever read. It centres on the discovery of the ‘invigorating properties’ of the Sudanese Blister Beetle that makes Viagra look impotent. In partnership with the stunning Yasmin Howcomely he uses his potent sex potion to steal the most unusual and profitable substances ever.

We see Dahl’s compelling sense of mischief in a sexual context and the true skill of the book is that while it covers uncontrollable sexual urges it is never explicit or vulgar. Well, you might disagree with the vulgar claim, but the charm of the story telling far outstrips any possible feeling of shock.

There’s loads of info about Roald Dahl’s varied repertoire at: www.roalddahl.com

It’s All About Me

I've been writing for a living in some form or other for about 15 years now and that included working on social networks before MySpace and Facebook appeared on the scene. I’ve had three books published the most recent is almost still warm off the press - a romantic comedy - Working from home: Mixing with pleasure? - available as an eBook in all formats.

Being an indie author is both empowering and sobering as the competition to get people buy your book is immense. My latest ruse is T-shirts printed with a sales pitch for the book. This is great fun as strangers start talking to you when you least expect it. This can be quite surreal when you’re in the supermarket with two young children!

Oh yes, I am now a stay at home dad looking after our four and three year old kids, mixing with those yummy mummies and writing in spare time and evenings. The TV doesn’t get much of a look in these days…

So is Working from home inspired by My Uncle Oswald? Not directly. One aim was to give people an insight into what it is like to work for yourself; having breakfast meetings with strangers and getting clients via Facebook and Twitter.

The other aim was to make people laugh out loud while reading it. Not a wry smile, a little snigger, but a proper laugh that really annoys everyone else around you. From the reviews so far it seems I have succeeded and I have to thank Mr Dahl for the inspiration.

You can find out more about Russ's writing at: 

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You - Read All About It!

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free 

It Is All About You!
Well we got off to a flying start with the first IAAY with a brilliant contribution from the irrepressible Maureen Hovermale, and nearly 800 people reading her piece, plus several comments. Thanks for being the cutting edge Maureen!

The next IAAY will be out Wednesday 27th June, and will feature one of the USA's top artists, Rebecca Venn. She paints and draws exquisitely and I'm looking forward to introducing her to you. 

If you're a writer, painter, musician or any other kind of creative person, and would like to take part, please have a look at the guidelines. You can contact me via the comments here or on Twitter: @mickdavidson.

Where Did All The Time Go?
I stepped rather niaively into having a guest contributor - for instance I hadn't though about the extra time needed to gather up new contributors and organise their material, and then add all that to the blog. But it's been worth it as I've had a lot more people visiting my blog and websites, I've made some new contacts with a variety of creative people (some of whom will be featured in IAAY - hurrah and thanks!), and one of whom described my idea as 'innovative'. Which I like a lot.

I like it because I've toyed with the idea of having a guest contributor for a while, but wanted to do something a little different to either a guest blog or a straight interview. Cutting out the middleman (me) and letting the contributor strut their stuff in their own way seemed like a good idea. Judging by the reactions I've had, a lot of other people agree. 

For me, creatvity is one of the most important things in life: it fires the imagination and takes us to places we never knew we would or could go to. It also forces us to expose our inner selves to the world, which is often very challenging. Despite this, I know that all the difficulties we experience are worthwhile. Not only that, we get to join a group of people who are fantastic to know, supportive, helpful and full of wisdom gained by travelling the same path. We might work alone, but we are not alone.

One of the things I hope comes from IAAY is that others will read it and become inspired to create as well. And if that happens, I'll be very happy indeed.

Tabla de Contenidos
1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

It's All About You - Time to Get the Excitements On
This Wednesday an unsuspecting world will wake/be already awake/fall asleep to the news that my very first It's All About You blog will be published.

And our first contributor will be the very marvellous writer and extremely industrious Maureen Hovermale. She'll be catapulted into the digital stratosphere on the 20th June.

It's All About You will then appear every Wednesday and will probably vary a bit for a while as I'm sure I'll have to get all experimental on the format. 

I've already got five people lined (three writers/two artists) but I'm greedy and want more contributors, and I want them now! And any of these could be you. Yes, that's you I'm talking to, the one looking at your computer or other handy digital device. 

I want to know what turns you on about being creative: what book or work of art gave you the wanna-do's and the I-must's? And when you did done or were all must-ered out, what did you produce?

I want to know about that too, so it's a great chance to show a slice of your work and tell everyone why it thrills you to have created it. You never know, you might even give someone else the wanna-do's and I-must's - and sharing and spreading the power of creativity has got to be, in my opinion, one of the best things any of us can do.

All you have to do is write 250 words on something or someone that inspired you to go create (and supply the quote or a pic of the art work). The second part features an example of your work and another 250 words on why you like it or how it makes you feel or... well, whatever you like really.

The only rule is that this isn't an opportunity to big up a mate, unless you happen to be mates with Cormac McCarthy or Francis Bacon. That said, it doesn't matter where you are in your career: I want to hear as much from the unpublished or unexhibited as much as I want to hear from those further up the success ladder. All are welcome.

If you want to take part, contact me via my blog's comments or comments form, or on the Twitter: @mickdavidson.

Table des Matières
1. The Darkness Beneath - my book - for free!
2. Prometheus Promo - minimalist film review
3. Back Of The Book- Blurb Is The Word
4. It's All About You - get yourself featured

Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*
*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. 

Another birthday comes and goes and I have to say I was cheered by the great response from my lovely friends around the globe: thank you all for all the love I received. The photo is of a beautiful painting my dear friend Rebecca Venn, of Kenosha, created for my birthday. She emailed it to another friend, Paola Bakx, of Oosterhout, who printed it out and then surprised me with it on the eve of my birthday. I have some lovely friends; I just can't trust some of them.

Prometheus Promo
On Tuesday I went to see Prometheus (in 3D) which I enjoyed, although I was more captivated by the visuals than the story. The latter was rather thin and the cast, though excellent, didn't really pop out of the screen as they should have, despite the 3D. A triumph of style over content in my opinion, but still worth watching.

Back Of The Book - Blurb Is The Word
Another slight disappointment was the great 'Blurb Novel Publishing Experiment'. Although the process of converting from Word to Blurb is pretty simple (providing your Word doc is prepared properly), the cost of buying one is prohibitive. For example, my 114,000 word novel The Darkness Beneath, is available for more or less €40 - and who's going to pay that much for a paperback? No one of course. Although I think what they're offering, especially the ability to convert to ebook for only $1.99, is very good, the cost is prohibitive in my case. Still, if you've money to burn, let me know and I'll send you the link.

It's All About You
I've been thinking of inviting other writers or creative people to feature their work on my blog for a while, but until now was stuck for an idea that didn't copy what pretty much everyone else does, which is guest blogs and/or interviews.

And then over breakfast this morning it came to me: invite people to talk about a piece of work they like by someone else, and then do the same for a piece of their own work. The reasult is a new section which I'll be calling: What I Read, What I Wrote. 

The idea is to describe why you like the work, but it could also be how it inspires you or what you learnt about being creative from it. Anything, as long as it's positive, i.e., this 
isn't going to be a slanging pit.

If you want to take part in this, all you have to do is:
  1. Step One: write about 250 words on a passage from a favourite book. This can be any genre, fact or fiction. This should include the passage itself or a brief outline of it, but the passage itself does not contribute to your 250 word total. If you're a visual artist, you can do the same for a painting or sculpture etc. Please note this is not an opportunity to promote an unpublished mate's work. 
  2. Step Two: the same thing again, but this time it has to be about a piece that you've written or created. This has to include the extract itself, but again this does not contribute to your 250 word total.

I'd also like to include your twitter name or other contact details, a photo of you (optional, though I may add a pic that I think represents you...) and a link to anything you want to promote, such as your website/blog/Amazon etc.

If you want to take part, please contact me via Twitter: @mickdavidson.  I'd also be very happy for you to promote this idea to your friends. This offer is open to anyone and everyone, known to me or yet to be introduced.

Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

It would be great if you could review it on Amazon when you finished. There's no obligation to be be nice just because it was free. Honesty is the best policy.

OK, I Give Up
(Oops! Just Found Out That I Can't!)

As all unpublished writers know to the very core of their souls, writing and continuing to write can be a difficult and tortuous road. It is a path laden with despair, anguish, depression; a path full of dead ends, misdirections and thoughts of suicide

It can turn you into a self-obsessed bore whilst simultaneously robbing you of every ounce of confidence you ever had.

Ok, it doesn't have the same near-death experience levels of something like mountain climbing or car racing, but it is incredibly hard just to keep placing one word behind the other at times. And this is just the work of doing it: I'm ignoring the wall of indifference erected by the near and dear and the publishing industry.

So the ability to carry on in the face of both these things is a prerequisite: even if you didn't know that when you started out, you soon find that you have unlimited quantities of 'carry-on' juice once you dare to try to get something published.

Owing to the forces of stupidity from elsewhere in my life, I've had a bit of a difficult week which culminated in one of those 'straw that broke the camel's back' incidences that can only be resolved by hiding in a cupboard with a stack of hankies and the feeling that the whole of outer space has occupied your soul. I'm talking cold, dark emptiness.

Fortunately I was able to talk to a very dear and loving friend who dragged me kicking and snivelling back to reality. It wasn't easy or pretty and I admire the fact that she was able to ignore all the bollocks I was spouting and hung in there until I was safely back on board the Enterprise. You'd have to have been there to appreciate how much this means to me, and I am very fortunate to have a friend who will stick by me despite the dark clouds and hard rain that inhabits my head at times.

During the course of the rescue mission she asked me what would I have left if I gave up (read into that phrase what you will). It sounds like a fairly simple question but the importance it has for me is immense. It reminded me that to go through life without trying to achieve something worthwhile, to not see my fiction writing published, or not to get where my dreams live, is not an option for me. Despite the depression and other negative forces that conive in the shadows of my soul, actually giving up is not an option, no matter how attractive its emptiness seems.

Perversly, this is just why the journey is so hard at times.

Adventures in Print on Demand
Do you know about Print on Demand? I've used it before to create photobooks and have even created a book of my earlier poetry. I think it's an good idea and a very easy way of getting your books printed without the aid of the publishing industry.

(The reason I've never released the poetry book into the wild is because I had a sudden lack of confidence about the quality of the writing.) 

I had an email from Blurb.com recently promoting their new idea of using it to publish your own novels. I haven't tried it yet (but hope to do so later today) but from what I've read, it looks like an excellent way of making your book available to everyone with very little cost to you. This is because once you've created the book and proofed it (that will cost you the standard Blurb printing and freight costs for each proof copy) all you have to do is publicise the link. If someone wants to buy it, and there are still billions of people who still like to read real books, all they have to do is order it from Blurb and it will be sent straight to them. 

So there's no need for you to hold stock or do anything with payments and delivery at all. How fantastic is that?

Sex, Death and Trains: All Yours For Nothing (still!)*

*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

I Should Have Been A Dentist
No really, I should have been. Because pulling teeth is exactly what writing can be like at time. That and carving granite with a teaspoon.

A few weeks ago I decided that the last chapter of The Girl Who Dreamt of Water should have one final dream sequence that ties all the various strands and people together and allows them to come to terms with difficulties they've had and accept the things they'd not been able to accept before the final chapter pulled into the station. It would also allow me to have a really good time writing something that might be considered a little on the fantsatic side (my favourite form of writing).

But although you can see there's clearly a reason to do this, actually finding even half an idea to write about is a whole other thing. After some head bashing and wandering around with a large empty space in my imagination, I finally came up with .5 of an idea (variable by +/- 10%).

I was very happy with this until I started writing it and realised that all I had really was two sentences. And so began the long, long climb up from the bottomless pit of dispair into the land of the clueless.

This resulted in a the creation of a few short paragraphs that seemed to be repeating themselves.

So I swapped character in the hope that new blood would fire up the imagination engine and swing the floodgates of ideas open and allow a river of words to drip, flow and cascade out of my mind and onto the page. (let me know if any of these trips the 'Flowery' gauge...)

Instead, each word has had to be scraped out of my skull one by one by one. 

So, perhaps the problem/answer is:
A) I'm worrying too much about what I'm writing and this constant critique is getting in the way.
B) What I'm writing is crap and therefore...
C) It's a good idea, but I haven't quite hit my stride and need to keep going until I do.

I've no idea which is right myself, but I'm going with C my friend, 'cause I often find, that flying blind, will get you there in the end. 

Which is fine, but I am scared that B might be true and I sure as hell don't want to spend the few hours I manage to spend writing, writing rubbish. I'm expecting the dream sequence to top out at about 5-6k words - which is an awful lot of words to delete, especially as they are an awful lot of words that took an awful lot of writing in the first place. 

I'd be pleased to know how you deal with this sort of problem.

Euro Derision
Whilst a lot of us are quietly freaking out about the meltdown of the global economy, there is something that we should worry about more. And that is why the UK has once more failed to make it into the top ten of the Eurovision song contest. That said, we improved on last year's position by finishing second to last this time.

The reason why we fail is because we choose the most complete and utter shyte as our song. You can't blame Engelbert, he sang magnificently, but if you're drinking shit, your burps are always going to stink. 

And why am I bovvered by this? It's very simple. Various Britains have been responsible of writing some of the best pop tunes ever, and the general public have acknowledged this by buying these song in their millions.

So why is it that a country jammed full of top song-writing talent (Beatles, Bowie, Bolan, the Floyd, Kinks, New Order, Stones, Muse, Massive Attack to name but a few) can only be inspired to write the most bland, turgid and insipid MOR crap? 

Clearly someone's playing safe here, and it's failing big time. It's about time the real songwriters in the UK ripped the task from the cold, dead fingers the losers who currently organise it, and take one giant leap away from the cesspool. 

I don't care if we don't win, but I do care that we take pride in our magnificent songwriting tradition and give it our best shot.